Phil Hester is a busy man. Still celebrating the successful debut of the “Firebreather” TV movie – an adaption of the Image series he co-created with Andy Kuhn – he’s writing “Green Hornet” for Dynamite and “The Darkness” for Top Cow and it was just announced that he’s also drawing “Godzilla” for IDW.
While the King of the Monsters is certainly one of the biggest names in pop culture history, Wonder Woman is certainly no shrinking violet. Hester takes on DC’s iconic Amazon princess, beginning this month, when .
Hester told CBR News he thinks the character created by William Moulton Marston in 1941 should be considered one of the all-time greatest but that it’s unfair to compare her to Superman or Batman, mainly because she hasn’t been featured in a seminal story like “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” or “Batman: Year One.”
And while he’s not declaring himself the creator guaranteed to deliver such an epic, Hester said that’s nonetheless what he’s setting out to accomplish with his run.
CBR News: First off, congratulations on the new gig. How did it come about?
Phil Hester: I had worked with [editor] Brian Cunningham as a penciler on Jai Nitz’s “El Diablo,” so we had a connection. I tried to keep him abreast of my writing work and when JMS had to step aside he thought of me… thankfully.
Are you a long-time fan of Wonder Woman? And even if you’re not, do you consider it an honor to write the most important female superhero in the history of comics?
It’s definitely an honor. I tend to follow creators I enjoy rather than characters, so you could say I’m a fan of Wonder Woman when she’s being handled by creators I admire. So, the book would wander on and off my pull list every couple of years or so. I’ve always been aware of her current status.
All that said, it’s a book I never imagined I’d be writing. Fans of my work know me for my horror stuff like “The Coffin” or “13 Steps,” or my indie work like “Firebreather” or “Golly.” “Wonder Woman” is a far cry from any of those, but after having the assignment for only a few hours, I had a head full of ideas for Diana.
Was your first introduction to the character through comic books or, like many from our age group, was it the Linda Carter TV series?
I’m an old man, so my first exposure came from “Super Friends.” Of course, Wonder Woman is a pretty ubiquitous character. You can’t really be a comic book fan and not be aware of her. I was an adolescent when Linda Carter’s show hit the airwaves, so I took a definite, marked interest in that program.
While Wonder Woman is a member of DC’s Trinity, along with Superman and Batman, she has never delivered the numbers in terms of sales or following in terms of fans as her two male counterparts. Do you think this is a boy-girl thing or is something inherently “wrong” with the character?
Nothing’s wrong with the character at all. Look, you’re comparing her to not only the Big Two of DC, but the Big Two of 20th Century fiction. Who’s struck more of a nerve with the public than Batman or Superman in any medium? They’re icons. So is Wonder Woman, but like any character, she needs a focused effort to tell really great stories about her.
Not to say there haven’t been any in the past, but she needs her very own “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,” or “All-Star Superman,” or “Batman: Year One,” or “Dark Knight Returns.” Despite the mega events these stories became, they were not manufactured as such. They didn’t come from the top down. They came from a dedicated creator or creators telling a story from the heart that was so powerful it became a landmark for said character. I’m not saying I’m capable of that with Wonder Woman, but if I don’t at least try to do that, I might as well go home.
Are there any particular strengths inherent in the character that you hope to further explore in attempt to make Wonder Woman more accessible for readers?
The best thing about her might also be the worst. She’s noble; so noble as to seem untouchable or aloof, which is often overcorrected for by making her savage or powerless from time to time. I know this is a bit of heresy to compare her to a Marvel character, but to me she’s DC’s Silver Surfer; Noble, righteous, powerful, out of place with modern society, cast out of paradise, but ultimately, deeply humane.
I want to write her as the personification of justice in the DCU. That doesn’t mean she’s inhuman or unerring, but always striving for the right cause. Sometimes that means kicking teeth in, sometimes it means showing mercy. That makes her a genuinely unique character to me.
Have you had a chance to talk to JMS about the story he had planned for Diana, or are you working from his story notes?
I’m working from his notes which have been a great help. They’re concise and direct, but leave a lot of room for me to do my thing and establish my voice. I got to play with and even create a lot of characters not in JMS’ original pitch. Working those new additions into his ultimate plan was a truly rewarding exercise.
Wonder Woman was re-designed for this new arc, which started in #600. What did you think of the new look when it was first introduced and now that you’ve lived with it for a few months what are your thoughts?
It’s always tough to tweak an icon’s image, and Wonder Woman is instantly recognizable in her old costume. That said, I’m not sure I’d want to go into battle in a one piece bathing suit. Jim Lee gave us a fresh take on it. Any new take on Wonder Woman would be seen as sacrilege, so I commend his bravery.
I happen to think Wonder Woman, like Batman, is such an iconic character that she can survive endless permutations and still be recognizable as Wonder Woman. I mean, the second anyone saw Jim’s redesign they thought, Wonder Woman whether they liked it or not. Bracers? Tiara? Stars? Golden eagles? If those things are present, you have yourself some Wonder Woman.
Personally, I’m not crazy about jackets on super heroes, but Jim Lee and Don Kramer can make anything look good.
In this current arc, Wonder Woman has been more militant, even more so than another pop culture amazon, Xena the Warrior Princess. Will you continue to portray her in this light?
Yes and no. She will definitely be seen in berserker mode from time to time, but she will also learn the limits of this approach and how she must grow past it to become the heroine she must be.
By the end of your run, does Wonder Woman get back to reality or is what we are seeing these days Diana’s new normal?
Too spoilery. Buy it and learn, friends.
OK. Can you share any other details for us of what’s to come in Wonder Woman’s world in the coming months? I see from the solicitations for February, Superman will be joining the fray. Â
Yes, but not in our book. In my world, #605-610, take place over about 12 hours. No time for Kryptonians.
Once this storyline is complete, is it the plan for you to stay on as the writer of “Wonder Woman”?
That depends completely on the response of readers and the powers that be at DC. I sure hope so. I’m working to that goal.
Before I let you go, I wanted to congratulate, as well, on the recently released “Firebreather” movie, which was very well received.
Thanks. We won the night on cable, so hopefully people will see more Duncan and company on TV in the future. The comic is also proceeding with a new mini, “Firebreather: Holmgang,” which is on the stands now.
Can you give us any details on any of the other projects you’re working?
I’m doing a feature with John McCrea for the new European magazine “Strip.” I’m writing “Green Hornet” for Dynamite and “The Darkness” for Top Cow, as well as drawing “Godzilla” for IDW. I’m also working on some unannounced creator owned stuff that will break in 2011. Baby needs a new pair of shoes.